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Environment & Science
10:27 am
Wed May 30, 2012

Invasive species hit your pocketbook

Sea lamprey cost taxpayers millions every year to control.
user drow_male wikimedia commons

The Nature Conservancy has released an analysis saying that invasive species such as zebra mussels and sea lamprey cost businesses and consumers hundreds of millions of dollars each year, besides damaging the environment in the Great Lakes region.

Power companies spend $130 million annually removing mussels from electric plants.

The report out yesterday said tourism and other industries lose $50 million a year in reduced demand because of invasive species.

The study conducted by Anderson Economic Group of East Lansing says the situation will get worse if Asian carp reach the Great Lakes.

News Roundup
8:54 am
Wed May 30, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

State AG reviewing McCotter's petition signatures for possible elections fraud

U.S. Representative Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia) announced last Friday that his campaign found irregularities in his petion signatures to get his name on the upcoming primary ballot. The state is looking into more than just irregularities. From the Detroit Free Press:

Photocopies of petitions, dates that were cut and pasted onto the petition forms and different-colored ink on identical petitions were just a few of the tactics used to try to fool state election officials into believing that U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter had enough signatures to get on the Aug. 7 primary ballot.

"This wasn't anything that was an innocent mistake," Lansing political consultant Tom Shields said Tuesday. "It was purely an attempt to make up for a lack of signatures, which is politically criminal."

Snyder calls Michigan the "Comeback State," urges businesses to hire veterans

At the opening of the Mackinac Policy Conference, Gov. Rick Snyder said the state's economic recovery is something that should be talked about. From MLive:

"Michiganders are too humble. We don't brag well," Snyder said Tuesday as he opened the Detroit Regional Chamber's 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference. "We have to speak up more. We are the comeback state in the United States right now."

During his remarks, he also asked businesses to reach out and hire more veterans. MPRN's Rick Pluta reports:

The governor says returning veterans face an unemployment rate of about 30 percent, something he calls “unacceptable.”

“So we need to help these people,” Snyder said. “So I ask you to do everything possible to make the session and to hire ‘em. That would be great. Thank you.”

More than 12,000 to lose jobless benefits

The Detroit News reports on looming unemployment benefit cuts.

Even though Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent, 205,044 workers in the state still collect unemployment benefits. But after June 23, up to 12,212 of those long-term unemployed workers will lose their emergency federal benefits under a formula that automatically cuts them off when the state's jobless rate drops.

Politics
7:08 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

No Deposit, No Return? State House votes to exempt drink pouches from bottle deposit law

(bestinpackaging.com)

The state House voted today to exempt drink pouches from Michigan’s bottle deposit law.  The bill passed on a 91 to 19 vote.

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Politics
6:25 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Officials break ground for new Detroit public safety headquarters

An artist's rendering of the future Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.
City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing joined other city and law enforcement officials to break ground on the city’s future public safety headquarters Tuesday.

The former MGM Grand Casino and another building will get a $60 million makeover before it’s slated to open next year.

The renovated complex will house Detroit’s Police, Fire, EMS, and Homeland Security departments. There are also plans to put a Michigan State Police crime lab there.

Bing says the new set-up will help the city’s crime-fighting efforts.

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Economy
4:57 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Gov. Snyder urges Michigan businesspeople to hire veterans

Gov. Rick Snyder tours the Detroit auto show.
Rick Pluta Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder today asked  businesspeople to make a special effort to hire veterans returning from overseas duty. It’s the topic of one of the sessions this week at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Mackinac Island conference.  It’s attended by 1,500 of the state’s business and political leaders.

The governor says returning veterans face an unemployment rate of about 30 percent, something he calls “unacceptable.”

“So we need to help these people,” Snyder said. “So I ask you to do everything possible to make the session and to hire ‘em. That would be great. Thank you.”

The governor recently returned from a trip to the Middle East to visit Michigan National Guard units. He’s made job training and connecting veterans to jobs a part of his workforce development initiative.

Investigative
4:47 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

McCotter explains what's next; opponent thrilled to be on the ballot

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter with his blues band on July 4th, 2011.
Vincent Duffy Michigan Radio

The race for the seat in the Michigan 11th Congressional District was expected to be an incumbent representative running for re-election in a safe district. Political observers were stunned to learn Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s campaign messed up. The Congressman’s name will not appear on the ballot in the primary election in August.

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Newsmaker Interviews
4:18 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Rep. John Dingell: Stronger Michigan means better dialogue, reaching out

John Dingell.

This week, legislators, policy makers, and business leaders are gathering for the annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and this year organizers say they hope the conference will "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market."

John Dingell is a Democrat representing Michigan's 15th Congressional District in the U.S. House.

He wrote an op-ed about the conference. It appeared in the Detroit News today.

In the op-ed, Dingell wrote about his desire for lawmakers to come together in a more bi-partisan way. He told Michigan Radio's Jenn White that there are a number of barriers to the bi-partisanship.

"Excessive partisanship is something which is both a reality and an end in itself to a lot of people who participate," Dingell said. "It's encouraged by media and 10-15 second soundbite and it is encouraged by the fact that politics has become a blood sport. Cheap shots are the way of the day and that we have somewhat forgotten the original intention of the founding fathers that we are to work together in the broader public interest."

He says the people have to understand that this is "our" country.

Dingell quotes his father who used to to say "we cannot look at the other fellow in the boat and say 'pardon me sir, but you're end of the boat is sinking.' We are all in this thing together."

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Environment & Science
3:47 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Michigan business group opposes new mandate for renewable energy

user vaxomatic flickr

Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce officials said today they opposed a ballot initiative aimed at creating a new renewable electric energy standard for the state, according to MLive. The state is currently working toward a standard that calls for generating 10 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

The ballot initiative seeks to bump up that mandate to 25 percent by 2025. From MLive:

Chamber officials said any changes to Michigan’s renewable energy standard should wait until the current standard has been fully evaluated in three years.

“Michigan is already on an intelligent and affordable clean energy path because of the 2008 energy law, which passed the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, said Chamber president and CEO Sandy K. Baruah in a statement.

The Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs campaign is still seeking to collect enough signatures to get the proposal on the November ballot.

Last week, during a segment for the Environment Report, James Clift, Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), said Michigan currently gets around 3.5 percent of its energy from renewable resources.

The MEC supports the ballot initiative. Clift said a new standard would continue the progress made after the 2015 standard is met (adding about 1.5 to 2 percent of renewable energy each year).

"The Michigan Environmental Council commissioned a report last year looking at the nine oldest coal plants in Michigan, said Clift. "That report found that Michigan residents have health care costs and damages of about $1.5 billion a year – just from those nine oldest coal plants. So, transitioning away from coal to clean more renewable energy, we hope will put a significant dent in those health costs that we are currently occurring. "

Utility companies oppose increasing the renewable electric energy standard saying such a standard should not be set by amending the state constitution, which the ballot proposal calls for.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark spoke with Brad Williams of the Detroit Chamber of Commerce about the issue:

"We’re looking at this as a protection of the constitution," said Williams. "There are legislators who can serve their full fourteen years in Lansing without having a good grasp of energy policy. And, so, to ask voters to make this decision and embed it into the constitution really isn’t fair to voters."

Politics
2:36 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

McCotter to run as write in candidate

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.
U.S. Congress

U.S. Rep Thaddeus McCotter (R- Livonia) will run in the August primary as a write-in candidate after the state found he did not have enough signature to be on the ballot. McCotter is seeking a sixth term in Congress. His campaign delivered 2,000 signatures, but more than half of them were found to be invalid. The Michigan Attorney General's office is investigating for potential election fraud.

Update 2:36 p.m.

The Detroit News reports all but 244 of the 2,000 signatures turned in by the McCotter campaign were invalid:

A review by The Detroit News of the petition signatures found full copies of a sheet of signatures that were photocopied once and in some cases two times and mixed in with the 136-page stack of signatures. In some cases, a different petition circulator's name was signed to the duplicate copy.

The overt copying is "frankly unheard of," said Chris Thomas, Michigan's director of elections, as he thumbed through the stack of petitions. "It's amazing when you sit and look, and it starts to dwell on you what they've done."

The Michigan Information & Research Service tweeted that prospective write-in candidate, David Trott, will not run against McCotter:

David Trott says he backs Thad #McCotter, won't run b/c the "timing is not right for me or my family."

Earlier today, the Detroit News wrote about the lone Republican left on the August primary ballot for Michigan's 11th Congressional District.

60-year-old Kerry Bentivolio a veteran and a "public school teacher who raises reindeer." He said he's running because he's angry about the federal government's excessive debt.

Since he became the only clear GOP candidate on the ballot, his head has been "spinning a little bit" with all the newfound attention. "I'm just an average guy that wanted to stand up and say this is not fair and this isn't right," said Bentivolio, who calls himself a strict conservative inspired by the tea party and liberty movements. With McCotter off the ballot, "the average guy gets a voice and gets a lucky break," he said. "I'm going to take advantage."

12:32 p.m.

According to the Detroit News, U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter says he thinks faulty petition signatures that will make him ineligible to qualify for an upcoming primary ballot were the result of deception by a trusted member of his staff.

From the News:

"At some point, for something like this to happen, I do feel like someone … lied to me," [McCotter] said on [WJR-AM's "The Frank Beckmann Show"]

McCotter told Beckmann it's possible someone was plotting against him, but more likely it was someone making an error while trying to help the campaign. He filed the petitions under the belief all signatures were valid.

10:30 a.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta reports the Michigan Secretary of State and the Attorney General’s office are investigating possible election fraud related to the McCotter petitions. The Secretary of State’s office says many of the petitions submitted by the McCotter campaign appear to be photocopies.

7:52 a.m.

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter says in a column in today's Detroit News that he will run as a write-in candidate in the August primary.

McCotter says his campaign's review of the signatures gathered to put him on the primary ballot for re-election confirms the state's finding that he did not have enough.

McCotter's campaign delivered 2,000 signatures so he could run again in the 11th district, but more than half of them were found to be invalid.

He says he will ask the Board of State Canvassers to refer the invalid signatures to the Attorney General's office for investigation.

In a press release this morning, McCotter said:

“I feel like George Bailey after Uncle Billy admitted he lost the money.  Like George Bailey, knowing my misplaced trust has negatively impacted so many people is heartrending.  Unlike George Bailey, I am not tempted to jump off a bridge.

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Business
1:42 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Protecting your social media privacy (from your boss)

State lawmakers are discussing whether to limit employers' ability to demand passwords to social media sites.

A bill would bar companies from asking employees or job applicants to hand over passwords to their Twitter, Facebook or other accounts.

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Transportation
1:15 pm
Tue May 29, 2012

Canadian rail workers might be forced back to work

user Eja2k wikimedia commons

The Canadian Parliament is close to passing a bill to force striking railway workers in Canada back to work.  The Canadian Pacific rail strike threatens to disrupt the flow of many key auto parts into the U.S. The legislation would require workers to return to the job later this week.  The Canadian Teamsters union plans to protest this afternoon at the nation's capital in Ottawa.

Arts & Culture
11:12 am
Tue May 29, 2012

On Memorial Day, veterans help shape our understanding of their experiences

Arlington National Cemetery
user Ed Yourdon Flikr

This Memorial Day, Michigan Radio spoke with veterans who have served overseas about how today’s veterans might be remembered.

Brandon Van Wagoner of Flint served in the Navy from 2004 to 2008, including two deployments to Iraq.

He thinks it's still too soon to know how his generation of service members will be remembered on Memorial Day.

“I really think the way we're actually going to see the Middle Eastern combatants isn't going to be completely formed or shaped until later on,” he says.

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Environment & Science
10:49 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Michigan Senate scraps DEQ permit for beach grooming

Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

Let’s say you own a beach house. You might want to pull out some plants or mow them or smooth out the sand to make it look nice.

At the moment, if you want to do any of these things, you need a permit from both the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Maggie Cox is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. She says her department has to make sure everyone can walk on the beaches, and she says sensitive wetlands need to be protected.

"Your property line is down to the water’s edge – but the state also holds in trust for the public the land up to ordinary high water mark."

Last week, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that would eliminate the state permit for beach maintenance.

Several environmental groups are opposed to that.  (You can check out this Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council brochure on beach grooming.)

The DEQ’s Maggie Cox says her agency will still have oversight of beach maintenance in wetland areas.

"In areas that are mostly sand or mostly rock, you no longer have to get a permit from the department. But in areas that are wet or coastal wetlands, made up mostly of bulrush or other vegetation, you’re going to have to still come to the department and the Army Corps for a permit."

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Environment & Science
10:29 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Fungus attacks spruce trees in Michigan

A seedling with dead terminal buds due to a Phomopsis canker on the main stem below the dying buds.
MSU Extension

The landscape of Michigan's Lower Peninsula has been changing over the decades. Some of the changes are intentional... some accidental...and some are simply a mystery.

In the 1960's and 70's, Dutch elm disease left tree-lined streets naked.

These last few years saw the Emerald Ash borer leave its trail of destruction across the state. And now Michigan's spruce and pine trees are in decline.

Bert Cregg is an associate professor of horticulture and forestry at Michigan State University.

He says one culprit is called Phomopsis. It's a fungus that has been around for a long time. It used to affect just seedlings and smaller trees. But now it's killing larger trees, too. And scientists don't know why.

"Is this an environmental set of conditions? Is there something going on with the pathogen itself? So there's really lots more questions than answers at this point, other than we're seeing a lot of trees starting to decline."

Cregg says the Phomopsis fungus is primarily affecting blue, white and Norway spruce used for landscaping. Those trees are not native to Michigan.

He says it progressively kills branches... and eventually the whole tree.

Cregg says a couple of things can be done. He says if you spot dead branches, you should prune them ... and get rid of lower limbs to help with air circulation.

He also says if you're planting spruce trees... don't group them closely together, because that makes them more vulnerable to fungus.

And if you're not sure what's going on with your tree: call an expert.

"So if you can get a sample into our diagnostics lab, or another tree care provider that knows what they're looking at. If it can be identified as Phomopsis, then there is a possibility of treating with a fungicide."

You might also be noticing branch dieback on pine trees along roadways and in state forests. Cregg says any number of things could be causing that... including a type of blight or insects... or maybe just normal variations in weather affecting tree growth. They just don't know yet.

Politics
10:20 am
Tue May 29, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Mackinac Policy Conference kicks off today

The annual Mackinac Policy Conference gets underway today on Mackinac Island. The conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber and has been taking place since 1981. It's a place where policy makers, politicians, and business and thought leaders get together to discuss ideas and policies that could shape Michigan's future.

Conference organizers hope to "spur a comprehensive dialogue on innovation, collaboration and the 21st century global market" at this year's conference.

If you feel compelled to tweet about the event this week, the hashtag for the conference is #mpc12.

Michigan Governor Snyder will deliver welcoming comments today at 3:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark and MPRN's Rick Pluta will bring us updates from the conference. You can also watch online coverage of the event sponsored by Detroit Public Television.

Update on wildfires in the Upper Peninsula

The AP reports that the 3,400-acre Pine Creek North wildfire in Schoolcraft County is mostly contained:

Officials say some crews are leaving the area as mop-up operations continue. Firefighters on Tuesday planned to patrol the perimeter of the fire looking for hot spots.

The wildfire was ignited by lightning and first reported on May 21.

However, the Duck Lake Fire continues to burn. More from CNN wire services:

The Duck Lake Fire has burned more than 22,000 acres and is still going despite recent rains, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported on its website.The state agency estimated Monday the blaze is about 51% contained, thanks to progress made by firefighters in maintaining a firm perimeter.

Moving up income tax cut called a "gimmick"

The Michigan House of Representatives will begin taking up plans today to move a planned income tax cut up by a few months.

The tax rate will drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent next January. The Associated Press reports Michigan House Republicans want to start the tax cut in October 2012.

House Republican Speaker Jase Bolger wants to return $90 million from a budget surplus to taxpayers. The tax rate would drop from 4.35 percent to 4.25 percent.

The Michigan League for Human Services says the move is an election-year gimmick. It says the money would be better spent offering preschool or dental care to low-income children.

Democrats say tax changes passed last year by GOP lawmakers will require that individuals pay $1.4 billion more in taxes next year. They say the $90 million cut is insufficient.

Commentary
10:09 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Commentary: Mackinac Conference

If you were going to stage a revolution and wanted to arrest the entire political and business leadership of our state, you might want to start by seizing Mackinac Island this week.

That’s because the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It will feature speeches by national headliners, such as public intellectuals Thomas Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

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Politics
6:30 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Debate on moving up a state income tax cut begins today

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House plans to begin consideration of measures moving up an income tax cut from January to October and increasing how much income someone can earn before taxes kick in.

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Politics
6:26 am
Tue May 29, 2012

Annual Mackinac Island conference starts today

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is scheduled to make opening remarks as the Detroit Regional Chamber begins its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The conference regularly draws more than 1,000 business and government leaders for three days of discussions about the Michigan economy, education and other issues. It starts Tuesday.

This year's program will focus on how Michigan can improve its global competitiveness through innovation and collaboration.

Politics
3:45 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

On Memorial Day in Detroit, a "funeral for democracy"

A coffin representing democracy at the Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

Some voting rights advocates say Michigan’s emergency manager law represents “the death of democracy” in the state.

So they symbolically laid democracy to rest at mock a funeral service in Detroit Monday.

The “funeral” included music and eulogies of sorts--all delivered from behind an American flag-draped coffin. A real hearse waited outside to take the coffin away.

Some might see this kind of display as a bit much. But organizers insist it’s totally appropriate, given what they see as a relentless assault on voting rights in Michigan.

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Economy
2:20 pm
Mon May 28, 2012

Michigan's economy showing signs of improvement, but there are "headwinds" coming

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A Comerica Bank economist says Michigan's economy is making a comeback.   But clouds could be on the horizon.

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